We’d all love to live in the moment, but it’s never as easy as we’d like. Happily, there are hacks! Join us today as Dr. Dorote Weyers-Lucci shares with us the power of immersive experience, the importance of ritual, and even some technical fixes to offer ourselves the ultimate present: the present!
0:30 Transformation through immersive experience
4:50 The immersion tech-hack
9:30 Non-digital immersive experience
14:40 Ritual experience
20:10 Be in the present moment
24:10 Duality and Individuality
29:20 Survival-entrenched thinking
34:40 Cooperative Play
41:20 Whatever resonates
Adrienne MacIain 0:01
Hey everyone, welcome to the That's Aloud podcast. I'm your hostess, Dr. Adrienne MacIain, and today we have Dorote Weyers-Lucci. Welcome.
Thank you. Thank you, Adrienne, for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.
Adrienne MacIain 0:14
It is lovely to have you here, I'm so pleased that you said yes to my invitation to come on the podcast. I think your work is just so exciting. So please tell the audience a little bit about the amazing work that you do.
Well, um, I wouldn't even know where to start. But I guess I can start with what I'm doing right now. So my work alternates between different areas, which I enjoy all of them very much, and I think what is appealing to me is being able to work in all of them simultaneously. So one of them is research. I've been working with immersive experiences and how they support transformation. And that's digital and non digital immersive experiences. Then the other is teaching. So I'm a professor for transpersonal psychology and psychology at Sofia University. And the areas I teach in are, you know, wide. Right now, it's perception and cognition, which I love. So I'm very much interested in whole-person education, and multi-sensory education, and play, like who we were just talking about before, and the ability to integrate information through contemplative practices. So that's another thing I forgot to mention with the immersive experiences, I spend a lot of time working with contemplative practices and how to integrate contemplation so that people can really digest information in a holistic manner. And what does that mean? Well, like, you know, the whole body, not just the brain, so that they're able to interact with information and use it for discernment. So that is research, teaching, practitioner. So I'm a clinical hypnotherapist. But I use many variations. I'm a mindfulness coach. I love interpersonal neurobiology, neuroscience, whatever I can get my hands on, somatic integration, art expression, your aesthetics, the list is long. I have a special passion too for people who are fighting cancer. So I do support groups for cancer, and cancer patients, cancer survivors, metastatic, the works, and I also have a private practice for people. And that's using the same type of methodologies I was just talking about. And then, um, yeah, I've been working in the tech area, but that's really just because I noticed that people were having a really hard time finding a place of peace and tranquility when they first start meditating. And I was concerned about that, because I was working primarily with anxiety and depression. And I noticed that people would come and then come back every time with sort of the same issues, slightly differently, and they'd get a little better, but sometimes it would get really difficult for them to do these things independently. Sit and meditate independently. So, you know, how can we hack this? And how can we make it easier for people when they sit down on a pillow, when they're meeting themselves, essentially, to not run away and go, Well, you know, that was great, but, you know, meditation's not for me. Or, what a bunch of garbage because, you know, I came out more nervous than I went in.
Adrienne MacIain 4:50
And so then I started looking at technology. What's different? You know, tools are available there, methodologies to work with it. And integrating some neuroscience and movements and play with my first project that was a way back, long way back, I think it was 2013 , not that way back, but seems like way back, with a project called Worry Bubble, where you would have these bubbles come out with an app on the Apple Store. You'd have these bubbles come out, and you would put your worries in, and then you would pop them. And put more words in and pop them, and pop them, and pop them. And just alone, that movement, and the eye-hand coordination, and the thought you were releasing every time. And then there was a little meditation with that. So that was a simpler thing. And then I was like, but this problem of meeting yourself in meditation alone was still remaining. So what to do about that? So then I found virtual reality to be the appropriate solution. I mean, like, what could be better? Totally immersive. What if you played with it in a way that would bring people down. And you know, just lean more into their own silence that is there for them to access by presenting it to them on the outside. And so it's a very simple app. I created StarFlight VR, which had a sound of a heartbeat at rest, but then had stars, and you're flying through the stars, and there was some color therapy. Or there is some color therapy, it's still available. And so this movement then starts, of course, entrancing people, but enables them to let go of the thoughts. Because notice, especially with people who haven't used VR a lot, the VR cuts the thought. I think when you, once you've been in virtual reality beyond a certain amount of time, it doesn't do that so much anymore. But at the beginning it definitely does. So then I started using that for research. I went on and created another app, Flow For Breath VR, which was more about attuning to breathing, and different types of breathing, and what if we added visuals to it, and you could sort of decide on your own rhythm. And now I've been experimenting with, you know, what other tools can we put out there that are easy for people to to use, because virtual reality, although I think it is the most effective one, is also a bit more difficult, because you have to buy the headset. And it turns out that at the beginning, when I first came up with this, it was the phone, and the headset, and the whole gear. People were getting so nervous putting that all together, that they were more nervous, you know. And then the technology got better, so they could just strap on a headset, but then they had to buy the headset, and that was more expensive. So anyways, it's been a conversation with the technology, with the hardware, with the software, with the ability to people to interact with it. But I did some more research, and there got very transpersonal, and found that people were having experiences of meta-awareness with the virtual reality. And that was specifically about death awareness. I've been working with death awareness. So that's another one of my favorite areas. So that death and life are so similar.
Adrienne MacIain 9:23
Absolutely. And I'm very interested in this idea of immersive experiences, you say digital and non-digital. So a digital immersive experience, as you described, would be you have got the, you know, the headset on. What is a non-digital immersive experience.
Okay, so there's a project that Dr. Marilyn Schlitz at Sofia University and I have been working on for a little while now about grief. And what is great about that one, and I have to say, Dr. Schlitz is a PI for this. And what we set up was a room called a psychomanteum. And there was a tradition at Sofia University, which was the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology for of psychomanteum. So like, what is a psychomanteum? It's basically a room, a dark room that you go into, and it's totally dark. And then you sit down, and you have a candle behind you and a mirror in front of you. And then you have a meditation period of about 35 minutes where you sit in this room, and basically the only thing that you can see is, you don't see your own reflection, you just see the candle, the reflection of the candle. And we asked people to think about somebody that had, that they missed, that had passed away for them, where they felt like things weren't resolved, like there was something left. Where there was this active grief that kind of sits in, can be very difficult for people to work through. And so people would come in, and sit in this chamber, and then stare in the mirror. And there was inductions beforehand, and, for research purposes, they fill out questionnaires before and after, and then there's also an interview. So, but this Psychomanteum was proved to be really effective. Right? But you can't always have this perfect setup, because the perfect setup is that it's really dark. So there's another psychologist who does this called Dr. Moody, he's on the East Coast, and he's been practicing this for a long time. And he uses that for grief. And he has a very elaborate routine or setup to get people to relax. Like, he goes on a walk with them beforehand, and they talk about the person, and then he shows them into the room. And so that's an immersive experience that is non-digital, totally non-digital. And I would say that, there is a lot of them. So if you would go into the forest, like forest bathing, like this concept of going into the forest and sitting there, and just letting the trees around you be your immersive experience. If you target it that way, that can be something that is very powerful. And so I would count anything like that as an immersive experience. But I mean, we could really start going crazy with us in the sense that, you know, like, what is reality? Right? So we're using virtual reality to create a certain scenario because it's easier to use that so people are fully immersed. Sometimes it's easier. Sometimes it's not. l mean, by the time you've finished creating a forest in virtual reality, you might as well go and sit in a real one.
Adrienne MacIain 13:44
Yeah, if you can.
Not everybody can. So for me, through the stars is a little bit more... well, we don't get to do that. So you know, let's go out on the lemon and play a little bit, and this idea. So we also made a comparison group for the psychomanteum that is in virtual reality. So in other words, you sit down, and you have the experience of walking into a room, and then you have the same thing, but it's a little bit more. There's a little bit more out-of-body experience, and floating above, and into the mirror, and back out just because you can. But then what is reality, right? Reality is really what we perceive. So whatever is immersive. I mean, I could say that, you know, just sitting here with you right now is an immersive experience.
Adrienne MacIain 14:41
Sure. So I'm very interested in ritual, as a theater nerd. I think this is, you know, a big topic for me is ritual and how we can use these external rituals and productions/performances to act out things that are going on inside or that we want to go on inside. So where do you see the crossover between these immersive experiences and rituals?
Everywhere. Well, for one, what's interesting about a ritual is that it holds you. So it depends if we have rituals that we expect, like daily rituals, you know, like a cup of tea or a cup of coffee in the morning, or whatever different people do to get started in their day. That's a ritual, right? So that gives people a sense of safety and a sense of place. Beyond, obviously, their boosts of caffeine, you know, that's nice in the morning to maybe get going. So there's a sense of holding, and in terms of immersive, I would say that ritual can strengthen the sense of place and holding in wherever we are. And there's so many different types of rituals. And sometimes maybe we don't even see them as such, we take it for granted. Like, people don't really think about, necessarily, about their cup of coffee in the morning as being a ritual. Or reading a story before putting your kids to bed at night. That's so simple, right, but it's such a ritual. And that can enable the kids for example, to really dive into their story when the story becomes immersive again. So it deepens that connection between I think, broadly, the parents and the kids, but also the kids to the story. And later on, maybe they're reading their own stories at night, or listening to their own, so that's a ritual that continues, and it deepens the experience in that way. And then we have more rituals, of what we think of as rituals, like change of the seasons, or Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or New Year's. And every culture will have a different way to recognize transformation and change, whether it's through the calendar year. And again, it's, I think that, yeah, that deepens an immersive effect. And, like, why would we care? I mean, I could that could be your next question. I would say, like, Why would we even care if it's immersive or not? Like, you know, what's to it? Right? Well, I think it deepens our appreciation for life. And it lets us taste the moments, and from a mindfulness perspective, that's where it's at, right? You want to be in the present moment. So it calls you into the present moment, it invites you in, and maybe you get to notice things that you forgot. But because you're so used to doing this, you can really go into it. You know, there's also this thing, this researcher called Porges, he has a Polyvagal theory. So it's about the vagal nerve that runs along and it's really responsible for switching the sympathetic into the parasympathetic. What does that mean? Like basically, when you're in a stress state, how to switch over to a non-stress state. And this relaxation that comes with it can really be brought about through ritual. So in a lot of the world religions, you have these actions of standing up, sitting down, or praying. I mean, I grew up Catholic, so we had to like stand up, sit down kneel, stand up, sit down, kneel in church the whole entire time. And, you know, turns out that that's great for getting your system into a parasympathetic mode. And so for the Muslims, you know, it is the praying towards Mecca. And I mean, we could go on and on and on, right. And so that's also ritual, and that's also immersive, and that also brings you back into into your body, it brings you back into I want to say this reality. Maybe people would fight me about that because they'd say, like, It's not this reality. Kind of like you're doing something else, like you're not interacting, but it's deepening your sense of reality in the present moment, and therefore you can be more attentive to what is. That was a long answer.
Adrienne MacIain 20:10
That's a great answer. It's just so funny. I'm looking at the time and realizing I haven't even asked my first question yet. It's great! This is great, I love it. So the question that I usually start with, and we'll just throw it in here and see what happens, is what story is the world not getting?
Maybe that it's so simple. But we try to find all these really complicated answers.
Adrienne MacIain 20:47
Boy, do we.
And yet it's so simple. It's really about being in the present moment and paying attention. And then we can't BE any more, if we're so engrossed in so many complicated things. I mean, nothing against, you know, I mean, I love, like I said, I love research. So obviously, you know, there's a part of me that totally enjoys complications, too. But, for the essential things like quality of life, like really living your life to the fullest. I think that we're not getting the fact that it's so simple.
Adrienne MacIain 21:36
Do you think there's a difference between complexity and complication?
For sure, for sure. And I think, and I'm not saying that there is no complexity, because in that simplicity, there's all the complexity. So that's the catch. There's a catch, there's a catch. But the complications actually lead us away from understanding that complexity through the simplicity. So then we're running amok somewhere. Yeah.
Adrienne MacIain 22:18
Absolutely. So where does where does the story of discovering this begin for you?
Adrienne MacIain 22:30
Yeah. Recognizing that the the answer is "Be in the present moment. Be here. Now."
That's, that's so interesting, because a lot of the, you know, I'd say I was really busy making it complicated for a while.
Adrienne MacIain 22:46
Aren't we all?
Whoa. I think the truth is that somewhere along the line, whenever I've been in nature, I've always felt very connected to simplicity. And I think that going back to nature, or my time spent in nature has kept me sane throughout, you know, any crises and horrible things that have happened in my life. You know, things that I've had to surmount. And if I wouldn't have had that... whew, I don't know. So maybe I would have gotten totally lost in the complications? But this way, you know, I, I've always taken the breathing time. But I think that that's when it was really clear to me is the ocean sound. Yeah.
Adrienne MacIain 24:12
So you just reminded me of a story that I haven't thought about in years. But do you mind if I take a moment to share this?
No, go ahead.
Adrienne MacIain 24:22
So it's so funny, because before we pushed record, we were actually discussing that we had both lived in Geneva, Switzerland. Now, when I was living there, I had this pretty traumatic experience where I was at the parcours. You know, there's the little place where there's all these little exercise stations and you go around, you do exercises, and you run around the park. And I was there very early in the morning, as was my wont. And this man kind of came out of nowhere. I mean, he'd been following me, I could sort of see in, you know, in my peripheral vision, that he'd been kind of following me around. But then he suddenly jumped out and grabbed me by the crotch. And I was holding this little log, you know, I was doing squats. And so I just hit him with it.
Adrienne MacIain 25:07
And took off running. And I ended up running all the way down to the water. And you know, there's that place where the two rivers meet, the Rhone and the Arve. And they're very different colors. And you can kind of see like, one's very sort of turquoisey and one's kind of, you know, milky. And there was something about seeing the two of them come together, but keep their integrity intact. That they were coming together, but the two colors weren't completely meshing. And something about that just really struck me in that moment, that like, I need better boundaries! I need to have my own sense of integrity, and my sense of safety, and that I really didn't. And that I was just very wide open to, you know, the world and to everything. And that was a big shift, actually, in my mind. And it was because of that, you know, the, I guess, that immersive experience, like you said, that I was able to get that in a way that I never had before. And I never put that together until just now.
No. That's marvelous, I love it. That's pretty profound. I mean, I think you're like diving into dual and non-dual. Right. So your experience was of that and like, what do you make of it? And I think also, when we are in a state of shock like that, maybe we also perceived things more clearly.
Adrienne MacIain 26:43
So that's, I mean, I know what you mean about those two rivers, and it is, it's beautiful. And I couldn't think of a better way of describing that aspect of duality while still retaining individuality. I think that's what we struggle with in the world at the moment so much as... we had this great movement, globalism and all the rest of that. And I love that, quite frankly. I mean, you know, it's sort of my heritage, how I grew up, moving around, but in that I think we kind of forgot about the individual cultures and the richness of that. Although I don't feel like I did, but somehow it started getting watered down. And so yeah, so now it's coming back. And saying individuality is super-important. But it's almost like, in a certain way, the pendulum has swung so far to the other side that it's just individuality, which is also not where it's at. So kind of like what you mentioned, where, you know, the two rivers converge, and yet both still hold their individuality within that, and yet they become one. It's beautiful, very poetic. Wow. I'm glad you donked that guy in the head.
Adrienne MacIain 28:21
Oh, right. Yeah. I mean, I did go to the police after afterward, too. And they were no help at all. But I'm really glad I bonked him one! Meted out immediate justice.
Yeah. But that's that's a great analogy, good analogy. We need a picture of that.
Adrienne MacIain 28:42
Yeah. Yeah. I need to find a good picture of that.
Yeah, those come together.
Adrienne MacIain 28:48
Yeah. Maybe I'll put that on the show notes.
Yeah, because, you know, I think there aren't that many rivers where it's so clear that these are two different rivers with two different sediments and two different characteristics that are really coming together. And what does that look like? It's the coolest.
Adrienne MacIain 29:10
Yeah, I think I had really sort of taken it for granted before that moment, and it really struck me right then as as being really profound.
Yeah, so very immersive. Yeah.
Adrienne MacIain 29:23
So what do you think blocks people from recognizing this wholeness of humanity?
Automatic thinking. You know, there's also an aspect of it that, you know, I think a lot of people don't have the luxury maybe to have these types of conversations always. You know, they're just trying to make ends meet, especially at the moment. So, yeah, I think then survival is something that is an issue. But I think it's also that our societies in general value survival so much. I mean, that sounds so weird, but truthfully, it's like, Wow, you know, that person made it! Like, okay, they survived really well. And then there's money attached to that.
Adrienne MacIain 30:35
Boy, is there.
Yeah, well, you know, I mean, the way we we deal with it, in our societies, kind of is, right? So that's the way we kind of define it. And yet, there's an element there where, diving deeper, we could come out of the experience of life by not having this survival-entrenched thinking. Because it puts the system out of balance. So any self-emergent system, or any emergent system, has its own balance, it's just the way nature works. I mean, you know, so you put something in imbalance, and it will just look to get back into balance, you know, on its own. Homeostasis is what it's called. I mean, in biology, you have to study this. And I think that when we over-use or over-drive or over-survive over others, we're putting the system out of balance. And then what we get is a swift kick in the butt. Which we haven't quite realized that that's what it is. And it's actually not necessary, which is the irony of it. So we're all like, scrambling, and yet, it's not helping us because we're constantly creating chaos. Well, there's always chaos. But, you know, there is within that chaos, there is a homeostasis that we are not aware of because we're not controlling it. And so that simplicity strikes again, right? So it's like this, Oh, yeah! It's so simple. And yet, then there's the complexity at the core of that. But yeah... again, a long answer. Sorry.
Adrienne MacIain 32:58
I love it. I love your long answers. It's great. So it's about the time when I usually do this little exercise, and I'm very curious to see how this goes with you. So what I'd like you to do, if you don't mind, is close your eyes for a moment. And so what I'm going to do is, I'm going to wave my magic wand, and suddenly everything is as it should be. You're now living in a utopia, where everyone is aware, awake, they are conscious, they are in the present, in the moment. And I want you to just look around and tell me what you see. And what you hear. What you're experiencing in this reality.
You know, it was so funny, the first thought that occurred to me, Ah, there's nothing left to do! Okay, I'm done.
Adrienne MacIain 33:53
My work is done. So what do you get to do? Go to Disneyland? Take a nap?
Disneyland? Sure. So fun. I love fun, like you mentioned, you know, games and playing?
Adrienne MacIain 34:07
Yeah, I'd probably spend my time playing, and doing art, and trying to write poetry about something that, you know, I remember suffering about. Or, you know, or just beauty them. And I guess you know, that's a great point, then there's nothing left but play.
Adrienne MacIain 34:31
Yeah. What do you see when you think of everyone's playing? What do you what do you see?
It's just fun. Yeah, I almost feel like my life is going more and more in that direction. I want it to continue that way. When I say I mean, it's like, you know, it's a it's a fostering of happiness and sort of, you know, like I mentioned like this individuality that is respected and interesting. And so maybe my work wouldn't be done, or I'd feel because there's so much to discover in this individual essence of everyone, and it's exchange, and these differences and...
Adrienne MacIain 35:18
Yeah, 'cause now you're surrounded by aware creators, right? Who are creating new ways to play and collaborate.
Yeah, imagine they're all around a big pot. And everybody is like, a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and let's create a little bit of this. Like the VR, this and that, and then we put people in it, and then Oh, crap, we have a world! Oh, I think that we need a little bit of action. So how about we create a war? And then we take off, and we make it, like, that one area doesn't have very much and another area has a lot. And then we see what happens. I don't know. That could be the other thing. Yeah, so I don't know. So maybe, you know, there, there are a lot of those games, the board games, and I do like, I enjoy playing board games as well, that are really awesome. I mean, there's some that are educational, like the the one that recreates the pandemic, those are really cool. And so then you get to, you know, play with that, which is also that experience. So imagine playing all day long, but you also have, like, the Settlers of Catan, where you are like, you know, we have different areas, and different people are settling in different ways. And they are areas of desert where it's not going well. And they are areas where there's the cities. And you know, the problem solving is around, I guess, how do I win? So that's no longer you know, that co-operative, what we were talking about.
Adrienne MacIain 37:08
Yeah, what's the... because challenge, I mean, obviously in play there's there's always challenge right, challenge is inherent to the idea of play.
Adrienne MacIain 37:17
But how do we separate challenge from struggle? Kind of like separating pain from suffering? How do you begin to do that?
Ah, well, by transpersonal psychology, suffering, and, you know, it's the way to grow. So how do we separate it out? You don't? And like you said, the moment you hit utopia, that's why that big sense of boredom overcame me, like, you know, everything is perfect. There is no more, there is no more, you know, you don't meet blocks anymore. What I find interesting is there, I forget the name of the board game, pan, pan, I think it's called Pandemic. And it's a cooperative game. But then you have, you know, you're fighting the pandemic, so there's like, there's still like this idea of struggle. And maybe that's kind of a great way of answering your question, because although there's suffering there, there's not so much of, there is a struggle, but it's not against each other. It's more finding a way to cooperate so as to overcome an obstacle.
Adrienne MacIain 38:48
And I think maybe that's the way. A lot of times we don't look at suffering that way, and we try to escape it at all costs. Which is a lot of times worse than if, you know, we were to engage in it. But yeah, so maybe that, that ease, it's not an ease necessarily, but you know, that shift of looking at it, that reframe that it's just an invitation to solve something else together. I mean, I'm pretty utopia. Like, we're pretty there, I think.
Adrienne MacIain 39:34
I think so. And again, I think some people are, and some people are not, because of how they're viewing things
Adrienne MacIain 39:42
Some people view it as, Here's some very productive pain that I'm working through. Other people see it as, Oh, this unbearable suffering that you know, is happening to me, and I can do nothing about it.
And but maybe there's elements of both, right? Because I think sometimes as we go through something that is really difficult, we go through those phases where we hit rock bottom, and it's like, Oh my god, you know?
Adrienne MacIain 40:11
Yeah. Sometimes we hit them all, you know, five times in one day.
Yeah. Well, at the moment, it's, you're rife with it there in the US.
Adrienne MacIain 40:24
There was a lot of crying last night.
Yeah, and I mean, you know, for all sides, really, this is, again, this is interesting. So it's like this sense of one side not understanding the other...
Adrienne MacIain 40:40
And fear, just so much fear on both sides.
Yeah. And, yeah. It's like, we're from different planets. Which is fascinating.
Adrienne MacIain 40:57
Republicans are from Mars and Democrats are from Venus or something?
You know, I have no idea. I don't even know if... well, we should, that would be great on a questionnaire. How do you define yourself, you know? What planet are you from if you're Democrat or Republican? Anyways, there's the researcher at work.
Adrienne MacIain 41:21
Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, thank you so much. This has been really wonderful. I'm just going to ask one more question, which is, what do you think is the main message or takeaway for people listening today?
Oh, wow. You know, I almost don't want to say, you know, whatever has resonated.
Adrienne MacIain 41:48
It's so funny, you're the first person to ever say that. And I've always been waiting for someone to say, like, That's for them to figure out.
Yeah, me. You know, I'm like, because we've been talking about this, right? So everybody is bringing in their individual gifts, their individual worldview. And, of course, I mean, that's like, okay, there's a culture, and then there's a subculture, and then there's this sub-subculture, and then there is you as an individual. But, so I'm sure that certain people would agree on certain things resonating more. And yet, I think for every individual there'll be a little nugget there of interest.
Adrienne MacIain 42:24
At least that's my hope.
Adrienne MacIain 42:26
Yeah. I hope so, too. So, where can people find you?
Um, great question. Well, I have a website, dorotelucci.com. So that's a really easy one. And from there, there's a link to the virtual reality work that I do, which has the name of CoreReboot, so there's a website called corereboot.com as well. And then you can find me under Sofia University, which is then for teaching and research, also on dorotelucci.com. And if anybody's interested in participating in research, shoot me an email, email@example.com. And, yes, I think that's it. That's where you can find me so many, so many things, so many good things to do.
Adrienne MacIain 43:30
That's awesome. Thank you so much, and I would love to participate in research. That sounds wonderful.
Adrienne MacIain 43:38
Thanks so much for being here.
I'd love to have you.
Adrienne MacIain 43:39
Yes. I'm in!
Transcribed by Rebecca MacIain